Time had passed since they graduated and Troy and Gabriella were now 26. Troy and Gabriella had gotten married and both Gabriella and Isabella – who was now 13 – had changed their last name to Bolton. They had also welcomed two new members to their family: Arabella Grace Bolton who was now three years old and Aidan James Bolton who was one. Arabella was almost an exact replica of Isabella, she was a mini Gabriella but with Troy's blue eyes. She also had Troy's personality and confidence. Aidan however was a mini Troy to the tee, Gabriella would almost joke that he was all Troy, but the little boy possessed the same nature as his mother and oldest sister.
Troy arrived home that day with Isabella and Arabella, all of them going into the kitchen to greet Gabriella and Aidan. He smiled as he noticed Gabriella sitting on the floor, playing with the little boy.
"Mommy!" Arabella cheered, running into Gabriella's open arms. Gabriella hugged the little girl and kissed her forehead before placing her on her lap.
"Hey Princess, did you have fun at daycare?" The little girl nodded and cuddled into her mother's embrace. As Gabriella noticed that Troy had taken Aidan into his arms, she turned her attention to her oldest daughter. "Hey Baby Girl, how was your day?"
Gabriella frowned at the short response. "Come here Bella." The teen sat down beside her mother and Gabriella wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "Are you ok Sweet Girl, did something happen at school?"
Isabella shook her head. "It's nothing, I just don't want to talk about it in front of Ari and Aidan."
Gabriella tucked a strand of the girl's hair behind her ear. "Are you sure, we could talk about it now, I don't think Ari would understand."
"It's ok Mom, I'll just talk to you and Dad later. I'm gonna go do some homework." Isabella kissed her mother's and sister's cheek and ruffled her brother's hair in greeting before going off to her room.
Troy sat down beside his wife with his son in his lap and greeted her with a kiss on the cheek. "Hey Baby, is Bella ok?"
"I don't think so, she's upset about something but she doesn't want to talk about it in front of Ari and Aidan."
Troy nodded. "She was kinda quiet on the way home, should we put Ari and Aidan down for a nap and we'll talk to her?" Gabriella nodded in response.
Troy knocked on Isabella's door and heard a faint 'come in.' "Hey Angel, can you come into the living room? Your Mom and I wanted to talk to you." Isabella nodded and followed her dad out of the room, taking a seat beside her mom.
"Ok Baby Girl, Ari and Aidan are down for a nap so do you want to tell us what's upsetting you?"
Isabella sighed, "am I adopted?"
Troy and Gabriella stared at her wide-eyed, Troy breaking from his shock first. "Bella, why would you think that, you're a spitting image of your mom?"
She shrugged, "The kids at school keep saying that there's only two reasons that I changed my last name. I'm either adopted or Dad isn't my real dad."
Gabriella turned to her daughter. "You and I changed our last names when your dad and I got married, why did this come up at school?"
"One of the popular kids brought in an old yearbook from primary school and it had Montez instead of Bolton, so they all started messing with me about it."
Gabriella sighed. "Ok Baby Girl, we do have something to tell you... You know how babies are made?"
Isabella scrunched up her face. "Eww Mom, can we please not have this conversation, it was awkward enough at school."
Troy and Gabriella laughed, "I know it was Bella and we're not gonna have that conversation I was just checking." Gabriella sighed, "as I'm sure you've been able to figure out, I was quite young when I had you, I was 13."
Isabella gasped. "What? Mom, you and dad... when you were 13. I'm 13."
"No Baby, your dad and I didn't do that when I was 13. Nonna and I lived in Minnesota while your dad lived in Albuquerque, you know where we visit Nonna every year, anyway, your dad and I didn't know each other until I moved to Albuquerque just before I turned 14." Gabriella sighed, she was getting to the hard part now. "Before I moved, I was with a boy who was a few years older than me and he was not a good guy. He was mean and obsessive, he just wasn't someone that I should've stuck around for... I was raped Isabella and that's what it finally took for me to get away from him and we moved to Albuquerque."
Isabella looked at her parents with wide eyes, her hand covering her mouth. "I-I was born through rape." She turned to Troy. "You're not my dad?"
"Bella -" They didn't get to finish before Isabella ran up to her room.
Gabriella looked at Troy with tear-filled eyes and he immediately pulled her into his arms. "She's gonna hate me forever."
"No she's not Baby, she just needs to process it all. It may feel like she's all grown up but in ways she's still young. She loves you Brie and that's never gonna change. How about we give her some time and I'll go talk to her?" Gabriella nodded, leaning her head against his chest.
After about an hour, Troy knocked on Isabella's door. He heard her sigh before her soft reply. "Come in." He opened the door to find her sitting on her bed, holding onto the pink care bear that she'd had since she was a toddler. The sight would've made Troy smile, if it weren't for her tear stained face.
"Gosh it's been a while since I've seen you with a care bear." Isabella weakly smiled in response making Troy sigh. He sat down beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "I know it's hard Bella and it's a lot to take in."
"Yeah well when you find out that you were born because someone raped your mother and everything you thought you knew is flipped upside down, it's not something you can adjust to quickly."
"I know that Angel and no one is expecting you to accept it overnight, your mom and I know that it's gonna take time."
"You and Mom lied to me for my whole life, I don't have a dad, I -"
"I know it feels like we lied to you, but we were only trying to protect you Bella. You do have a dad though, I've said this ever since I became apart of your and your mom's life that regardless of biology, I'm your dad. What I've learned Baby Girl, is that genetics doesn't make you a father, it's how you treat the child." He faced his daughter, keeping his arm around her shoulder. "When I was young all the way through 'til I was 16, my dad was abusive to me. Your mom was the only person I ever told about it until he was arrested and it was you and your mom that got me through. Whenever Jack would become too much or whenever I was physically abused by him, I'd come to your Nonna's house and I'd spend time with you and your mom.
The point of this story Baby Girl is that just because he was biologically my father, that didn't make him my dad. What makes a person a dad is how he treats his child and I learnt that from you. I never told your mom this but I started thinking of you as my daughter the first time I met you. I remember she told me about you and how you were conceived and at first – before I knew any of the story – I was upset, but when I found out, I just wanted to make her feel better. We spent the night playing with you and I remember thinking about how right it felt to call Brie Mommy when I was talking to you. After a couple months, you called me Daddy and that was one of the happiest nights of my life Angel, I was so glad that you thought of me as your dad and I promised myself that I'd be the best dad I could be for you and I vaguely remember making that promise to you one night when I was tucking you in."
He hugged Isabella to him. "At the end of the day Baby, us talking isn't about getting you to see me as your dad, that's something I won't force on you -"
"You are my dad." She cut him off. "I don't know who my real dad is and I don't think I want to based on what he did to mom but you are my real dad. I don't have a single memory before you came into my life, for every Christmas, birthday and important event, you've been there. And now that I know that I'm not really your daughter like Ari and Aidan are, I do know that you've never once treated me different from them or made me feel like I wasn't your daughter."
"It's like I said Bella, you are my daughter and you have been since you were three years old. I love you so much Angel, more than you can ever know."
"I love you too Dad." She said, cuddling into his embrace just as she had done when she was a little girl, making him smile.
"Ok so now that we've talked, please don't be angry at your mom, she was trying to protect you just as she's done your whole life and she was waiting for a good time to tell you when you could understand what's going on."
Isabella nodded. "I know and I'm not angry at Mom, I'm just... confused. I just need some time to myself so I can think."
"That's perfectly fine Bella, are you gonna come down for dinner."
"No I think I just need to get some sleep."
Troy sighed, "alright Baby Girl, if you're hungry though please make sure you get something and can you do me a favour?" Isabella nodded and he pulled out the scrapbook he had been looking through the day Isabella had been taken and Gabriella went missing. "Take a look through this for me, your mom made it from when you were born and she finished it on your third birthday, there's a letter on the last page that I think you should read." He gave her one last hug and kissed her forehead before standing up. "Your mom loves you so much Bella, more than you could ever know and I love you so much Angel."
"I love you too Dad."
After Troy left her room, Isabella could hear her parents talking right outside and she peeked through the door. She watched as her mother was crying and her father immediately pulled her into his arms; their relationship always made her smile.
"What if she hates me and never wants to speak to me again? What if she wants to meet him?" She paled. "What if she wants to go live with him?"
Troy cupped her cheeks in his hands, forcing her eyes to lock with his. "None of that is gonna happen Brie. You're her mom and Bella loves you, regardless of how she feels right now, she's never gonna hate you. She just needs to process everything that she found out today. I don't think she's gonna want to meet or live with Ashton, Baby, I think you're just freaking out a bit and imagining every bad scenario you can think of but it's going to be ok, just give her some time."
She nodded. "I know, I just don't wanna lose my baby girl." She rested her forehead on his chest and placed a kiss on the clothed skin. "I love you so much Wildcat."
He responded with a kiss on the top of her head. "I love you so much too Beautiful." He placed his hands on her upper arms, his thumb caressing the skin. "Now it's been a big day for us all. Bella doesn't feel like dinner so I told her to grab something if she gets hungry, I just want to give her some space for now. How about we get Ari and Aidan, we'll have some dinner and we can all get some sleep, we'll sort the rest out in the morning?" She nodded against his chest and he guided her into the dining room.
In her room, Isabella sighed and walked away from the door. She felt the tears in her eyes at seeing her mom so upset but she still felt the whirlwind of emotion at what she'd found out that afternoon. She sat down on her bed and looked at the scrapbook that laid in front of her. She opened the first page and smiled at the photos. The very first page had a photo of Gabriella holding a newborn Isabella. The teen bit her lip as she looked at the teenager on the paper, an exact resemblance to herself, only brown eyes instead of blue.
She turned the pages to see more photos of her and her mother and others with her dad and nonna. Looking through the book, she watched herself and her mother grow up together. Then she found the letter, she started reading and the tears filled her eyes.
To my Baby Girl Isabella,
I'm writing this to you from the hospital, you were born three days ago and I love you more than I've ever loved anything in my life. You are the most beautiful little girl and I'm so excited to raise you and watch you grow up, but I hope it doesn't go too fast.
When I found out that I was having you, it was the one good thing to come out of this terrible year. You gave me hope my angel and as I held you in my arms the very first time and every time after that, I thank the stars that they brought me you.
When you're old enough to read this, I know you will understand how you were conceived and I know you will be upset, but please don't be baby. You are the best thing to ever happen to me Isabella Claire and I love you more than anything in the world. The whole experience may have been terrible but as soon as I knew that you were in my tummy and I heard your little heart beat, I fell in love with you and it didn't hurt as bad anymore. You saved me baby girl.
You're the most beautiful baby girl and I know that you are going to grow up to be a beautiful girl. I'm going to do everything I can to give you the life you deserve and I hope that one day, you'll have a father that can love you the way I do. But whether or not there is eventually someone in the picture, I will be the best mother I can to you.
You are the light of my life, my baby girl, my little angel and I love you more than words can express my beautiful daughter.
Isabella wiped the tears from her eyes and folded the letter back into its place, she noticed another letter tucked away, Troy hadn't mentioned this one. She pulled it out and started reading.
To my Baby Girl,
It's 2am and your daddy and I just got you back earlier today in the afternoon. That's right my sweet girl, you have a daddy who's gonna love and care for you and I know he will because he treats you like a princess. He's everything I ever wanted for you Baby and he loves you very much.
We had been playing with you in the park and Daddy's cousin was coming to visit him, but he was bringing a friend, which turned out to be your real dad. He found out about you that day and when we got home that afternoon, an officer came saying that they needed to have a trial and he took you away. I was so scared that I was gonna lose my baby and I knew you were scared too, you were calling me mama.
The next day, we were in the courtroom and the door opened. You came running into my arms and I never wanted to let you go. I could feel your little heart racing and my number one priority was to calm you down because I hated seeing you so distraught Sweet Girl. When the judge said that you were coming home with Daddy and I, I was so relieved Baby and me and Daddy just hugged you tight.
Now I'm sitting here in the living room, writing you this letter while you are asleep with Daddy in my room. I couldn't sleep tonight, the events of the two days circling through my head that I just had to get it out. I love you so much my beautiful girl, I love you always and forever.
Isabella wiped the tears from her eyes and looked at the clock 11:25pm. She went downstairs to get a glass of water but she noticed Gabriella sitting on the couch in the living room. Even in the darkness, Isabella could see the tears on her mother's face and her heart broke. "Mama." She vaguely remembered calling her mom mama when she was scared and she didn't currently understand why she felt compelled to return to that childhood habit but nonetheless, she called the name as she timidly sat beside her mother.
Gabriella immediately wiped her tears. "Hey Angel, are you ok?"
Isabella nodded and cuddled into her mom's chest. "I'm sorry Mama."
"Mama? I haven't heard that one in a long time my sweet girl." Gabriella stroked her hair. "You have nothing to be sorry for. I'm sorry, I thought I was doing the right thing and I was just trying to protect you. I know you might hate me right now but -"
"I don't hate you Mama, I love you. Daddy explained some things to me before dinner and I read your two letters. I understand now and I'm sorry for reacting the way I did."
Gabriella shook her head. "You reacted the way anyone would Baby Girl, you don't ever have to apologise for your feelings. I just didn't want you to hate me."
"I could never hate you, you're my mama."
"I love you so much Bella."
"I love you too Mama." Isabella rested her head in her mother's lap as Gabriella's fingers thread through her hair. "I'm glad we moved to Albuquerque and you met Dad. I'm glad that you and Dad are my parents and that we have Ari and Aidan."
"I'm glad too Sweet Girl, I love you, Ari, Aidan and your dad more than you can ever know."
"We love you too Mama."
That night, Isabella fell asleep in her mother's arms just as she had done when she was a little girl. Her world may have been flipped upside down, but Troy and Gabriella were always there to help her and be there for her when she needed them. As her parents had always said, she would always be their little angel.